Marine Private John Saini Returns from Tarawa

Posted on June 11th, 2016 by:

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Marine Private John Saini Returns from Tarawa

On November 20, 1943, 20-year-old Marine Private John Saini stormed ashore the island of Tarawa. During the fierce three day battle he was killed and buried in one of the numerous battlefield graves on the island.

After the war, the military began recovering the bodies of the fallen Marines, but couldn’t locate the remains of Pvt. Saini.

For decades, the only information John Saini’s parents received was a telegram stating that their son was presumed dead.

john saini

Marines carry the remains of Pvt. John Saini after his arrival in San Francisco (Photo via: USO)

For over 70 years, the whereabouts of the fallen Marine remained a mystery, until last year when a team of volunteers from History Flight, a charity that locates the bodies of missing American servicemen, discovered a grave on Tarawa that contained nearly 40 Marines.

The grave was discovered by the team’s cadaver dog, Buster, who found the unmarked trench not far from the lagoon that saw some of the heaviest fighting on the island.  The remains were handed over to the U.S. Government’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for DNA analysis and identification.

On Friday, the remains of Pvt. John Saini were sent to San Francisco, where the Marine was reunited with his family during a short ceremony by the plane.

Although none of the surviving family members had met Saini, they all knew his story.

“This is stirring emotions that I can’t even describe,” said Liz McDowell, the niece of Pvt. Saini. “There wasn’t a lot said about this in our family. But we felt it.”

 “It’s a relief to have my uncle finally home,” said nephew John Saini, who bears the same name as Pvt. Saini. “This is a day my grandparents wanted but never lived to see.”

Pvt. John Saini’s remains will be reburied this Saturday at Oak Mound Cemetery in Healdsburg next to the grave of his parents.

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